One of the key components in a successful classroom is having a positive teacher-student relationship. Having a positive relationship with your students will motivate them to do the best work they can, and keep all your students engaged throughout the school year. A student will do great work for a teacher that inspires them to work harder. A teacher can affect how a student interacts and behaves in class just by having good rapport with them. It is so important for kids’ mental health and future success that they know that people care about them. Since students spend almost more time in school than they do with their families, the care that teachers show is essential in their lives. Teachers can never know what is going on in a student’s life until they truly get to know them. Students’ personal lives can greatly affect their in-class performance, to the point where the students’ full potential could not even be realized.
All this responsibly is not just on the teachers. Students need to know that they can go to their teachers to talk about things, not just school issues. I (Kellen) have had my life changed by some of my teachers, because I finally decided to open up to all of them, and just let them know about what’s going on in my life. I have personally struggled with a mental health issue – namely, anxiety - and this year school started to get very hard for me. Once I went in to every one of my teachers and opened up about these issues, I got nothing but support. All of them talked to me about how they understood what I was going through and they said they would be more than happy to just talk to me about everything. Ever since I decided to do that, school has improved so much in every way possible. I started participating more in class, getting my work done, and my grades came back up to almost all A’s and B’s. Teachers started making some small accommodations for me, just to make me a little more comfortable. For example, music is a big part of my life, and it is something that always calmed me down when I had anxiety issues. I explained this to my teachers and they were completely open to letting me use music to aid my learning in class. My classes did not change otherwise, and the workload wasn’t any easier, but since I knew that I had all my teachers on my side, I could do it. I hope that every student going through personal issues in their life has the opportunity to open up to their teachers, but it is on them to do that. Teachers however, still need to have an approachable “vibe” if you will. I would not have been able to go to my teachers like that if I didn’t feel like they were going to take what I was saying positively. The connections that I made with those teachers has given me my own support system, and it changed not just my school life, but my life all together.
One thing that teachers can do to help the students feel more comfortable in their classes, is to incorporate modern technology into lessons. When doing this, technology should not take over the lesson, but simply add to it. But integration of technology just for the point of bringing it into the classroom is a waste, it needs to complement the lessons that are already made, never the center of it. Kids use social media all the time, and it can be used positively to help them and the world around them if done correctly. For example, all the #bowtieboys try to keep our twitter accounts running with good tweets and research that support the topics we represent. This same concept can be used in the classroom. “Educators need to recognize that these sites can be a place where teens learn social skills and practice improving interpersonal relationships” (Teaching with the Tools Kids Really Use, 2010). Social media is a great way for students to practice their 21st century skills, which are arguably some of the most important skills students can learn in school. This integration of something that kids are comfortable with into the classroom will make kids feel more connected and engaged.
A fantastic way to do this is to have students tweet things that they have learned from lessons, books, and discussions in class. That way if all the students are not reading the same book, or having the same discussion, they can still see the main points and ideas brought on by those sources. For example, if half the class is reading To Kill a Mockingbird, while the other half is reading A Tale of Two Cities, both groups can tweet about the main ideas and lessons they have learned from their book, and read about the lessons from the other groups book. This will promote the students’ productive use of technology, while improving their online presence. When both groups are finished with their books, a full-on twitter chat can be run by the teacher about what they have gathered from their book, and all students can say what they feel on the subject, and how it relates to issues in the world today. The end twitter chat would act like a Socratic seminar, but is in text so it is easier for assessment. This would make social media “a place for groups of students to collaborate as they work on a group project” (Teaching with the Tools Kids Really Use, 2010). This idea, if done correctly, would teach students how to use social media effectively, incorporate technology in an effective way without taking away from the meaning of the lesson, and it has relevance to real world issues today.
Also, the addition of technology will make the content seem more relevant to students, which is a huge component to how engaged the students are in that lesson. Everyone wants to learn, and when a student can see that what they are learning in class can help them in the real world, they will want to learn even more. This simple method of integrating technology can help teachers maintain that positive “vibe” I mentioned earlier, which will make students feel more connected to their teachers. This connection can make the student feel much closer to their teacher, thus making them more open to their teachers about personal issues.
I (Ryan) have been labeled a slacker by the vast majority of the teachers I’ve had in the past. They see me on the surface and disregard me as an unintelligent floater, who will never respect their class. These thoughts about me and students like me can play a major role in the way we perform in school. While the reason may very well be a lack of motivation or a lack of interest, lots of students have internal issues that are not easy to share, and may be prohibiting their success in school. I have lived with severe Generalized Anxiety Disorder my entire life. I have learned coping skills over the years yet, it can still happen and make it hard to pay attention and be present in class. If a teacher could act as a sponge to soak up everything I might need to get off my chest about something that could be causing an anxiety attack that can be the biggest factor in my performance in school. I am not a straight A student. I haven’t been all of my high school career. As teachers fail to make personal connections with me, I fail to see the point and meaning in the work I am assigned, and my grades suffer. I go home and I am berated by my parents. “We know you are smarter than this” they would say after seeing my pitiful grades. I go back to school and am greeted with a frown as I fail to turn in my homework yet again. Teachers see these things on the surface and turn me away as lazy and unmotivated, yet the small number of teachers I have made a connection with, I have worked unfathomably harder for them and shown them who Ryan Hur truly is.
While I was reading The Greatest Catch, by Penny Kittle, she inspired me to think that teachers can make a deep and true connection with their students. Penny astoundingly proves that a connection with a student is fathomable, all it takes is a first step on the teacher’s side. An unspoken wall is naturally built between the teachers and the students as soon as they step foot in the classroom, it is up to the teacher to destroy that barrier. One of my favorite of the many heart wrenching stories she tells is about Russel. A boy who hasn’t had a father in the picture, and his mother works too much to have an impact in his life. This is the perfect example of a student who could benefit extraordinarily from a productive relationship with a teacher. Russel couldn’t read, therefore, the system failed him. Kittle pushed Russel to do the best he could, and it seemed as if he did, but due to the way standardized tests operate, the system didn’t see it that way. Nevertheless, the connection that he made with Kittle had an impact on his life. All a teacher needs to do is make a real reach into the student’s life. Ask them simple questions, and make them feel wanted, because maybe they don’t feel that way outside of a relationship you build with them.
As students who both suffer from mental health issues, we know how important it is to have a positive connection with your teachers. It is utterly important that students change their perception on teachers, from an inattentive figure that’s only purpose is to teach to the test, to a person who really can make a difference in their life. When this connection is made, students will feel infinitely more pleased with their school experience, and be far more productive. While using technology to ease this process along, students will start to feel more comfortable, and learn some great skills along the way. All it takes is a teacher who shows that they genuinely care about the work they do. Students perform stupendously for teachers that they connect to, and are comfortable with. The relationship between a student and teacher effects a student’s quality of work, happiness in school, and makes school seem less stressful and much more manageable.
Brooks-Young, Susan. Teaching with the Tools Kids Really Use: Learning with Web and Mobile Technologies. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin, 2010. Print.
Kittle, Penny. The Greatest Catch: A Life in Teaching. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 2005. Print.